November 22, 2009
About a thousand supporters of the far-right Jobbik party have participated in a peaceful march on the 90th anniversary of Horthy’s takeover in Hungary. Hungary’s revisionist governor between 1919 and 1944 has successfully beaten a Communist uprising and has been utterly defeated by the Nazis and Soviets, too. Nostalgia for Horthy is rooted in Hungary’s current chaotic politics and the lack of an anti-Communist hero in our 20th century history.
Horthy’s regime is an enigma for the contemporary Hungarian: an authoritarian regime without authority. Horthy has ruled Hungary as a governor in a ‘kingless kingdom’, which was not able to produce a king after the Habsburgs. The ‘kingless kingdom’ did not give up continuity with the Hungarian Kingdom, a semi-independent polity of the Habsburg Empire that had suffered an even loss of territory and population in the Peace Treaty of Trianon after World War I. However, it has also refused a Habsburg restoration, the Austrian rulers who had been lazily claimed as foreign invaders and were blamed for all the bad parts of the former Monarchy.
Horthy’s contemporary fans claim that he was neither a Nazi in a time when Austria happily joined Hitler’s Third Reich, nor he did a bad job at rebuilding Hungary compared to other Central European countries’ and he was a real anti-Communist and the last Hungarian statesman who stood up against Communism that caused so much tragedy in Hungarian life later. However, he allied himself with Hitler in the pursuit of his revisionist agenda that ended in a tragedy that still haunts ethnic Hungarians, especially in Slovakia and Ukraine. After successfully regaining some Hungarian-inhabited territories he had to send Hungarian troops against the Soviet Union who were stopped and massacred at the river Don by hundreds of thousands. Another half a million Jewish Hungarians were deported to Nazi deathcamps. Horthy’s troops and the formerly oppressed Hungarian minorities had committed genocide in Northern Serbia. This policy has directly lead to the death of about a million Hungarians, or a tenth of kingless kingdom’s population, a strong backlash in the Peace Treaty of Paris, and an everlasting paranoia and hatred towards ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries.
Miklos Horthy in retrospect had not achieved more in any fields than his contemporary Czech, Polish or Serbian collegues, who had at least shown some personal courage. Horthy, who unsuccessfully tried to start a dynasty has personally collapsed when the Nazi Germans had kidnapped his child. (His first son died in a plane crash that many Hungarians also blame on German conspiracy). The blackmailed Horthy at last had not achieved more than his contemporary Austrian or Slovakian politicians who are not remembered with respect. The Horthy-regime collapse overnight at the end of 1944 and gave way to a brief republic that was crushed by the Soviets within three years. His legacy is darker: his revisionist agenda and alliance with Hitler gives little room for ethnic Hungarian political goals for autonomy in educational, cultural or political issues in the fatherlands outside Hungary.
The sad irony of Hungary’s 20th century that the Soviet occupation could add as much pain and loss to Hungary’s than Horthy’s regime. Hungary has no real historical anti-Nazi and anti-Communist hero. That gives a little credit to the old man who had successfully beaten a Soviet uprising 90 years ago. However, it would be very unwise to believe that Hungary is developing a cult for Horthy or his regime. Only 1000 far right supporters gathered on the 90th anniversary of Horthy’s takeover in Budapest. Fourteen of them were arrested by the police for wearing the uniform of an unconstitutional organization, the Hungarian Guard, that was outlawed after a lengthy court trial a year ago.